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THIS WEEK: The 'Madigan Impact' after the indictment

Republicans are tagging Democrats who are trying to distance themselves from the indicted former Illinois House Speaker

MOLINE, Ill. — It was sudden... but not unexpected. 

"Corruption is sorta steeped in the fabric of Illinois politics," said Western Illinois University political science chairman Dr. Keith Boeckelman on "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens".

The longest serving House Speaker in US history now faces a 22-count indictment in federal charges.

Former Illinois State Rep. Michael Madigan faces charges of racketeering, conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and extortion offenses

"Unfortunately, this type of criminal conduct drastically undermines the public's confidence in our government," said US Attorney John Loesch in announcing the federal indictment.

"Simply put, it's not a good thing," he added.

How bad?

"Today may be the darkest day in Illinois government history," said Illinois House Republican Leader State Rep. Jim Durkin.

That may be an overstatement for a state that has seen four of the last ten governors sent to prison.

But Republicans say the downfall of Speaker Madigan, and this week's indictment, should mean much more,

"This 22 count federal indictment against former Democrat speaker Michael Madigan is the beginning of the power cleaning so desperately needed in Illinois government," said Rep. Durkin.

Western's Dr. Boeckelman says Madigan's indictment will play a major role in statewide races this year even says Democrats distance themselves from the former speaker.

"They're clearly trying to do damage control."

Dr. Boeckelman says several Democrats serving in the Illinois Legislature, including some who actively moved to oust him from power in 2021, were recruited by Madigan and his staff or received political advice or backing at the starts of their campaign.

"Distancing" themselves now may not be effective whether Madigan is in office now or not.

"Whether he's speaker right now or not I think that case is harder to make with these indictments out there," he said.

You can listen to our entire interview with Western Illinois University Political Science Department Chairman Dr. Keith Boeckelman on THE CITIES PODCAST.

But Dr. Boeckelman said as one era of machine politics diminishes, another may be emerging.

He cited businessman Bruce Rauner's campaign for governor where the Republican spent a record $27 million to win election in 2014.

And businessman JB Pritzker who topped that by spending $171 million to get elected as a Democrat in 2018.

And now Republican businessman Ken Griffin pledges to spent up to $300 million on Republican candidates in 2022.

"We've had this long history of machine politics and I also wonder with these kind of wealthy business people coming in if we are almost adopting toward a new boss type of politics."

It's yet to be seen if the 106-page Madigan indictment forces new Illinois ethics changes.

But either way, for many residents and even federal prosecutors, it's just sadly unsurprising. 

"I think we all shake our heads sometimes when we think there's another corruption case happening and other crimes as well," said US Attorney Loesch.

You can watch "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens" Sunday mornings at 10 on WQAD News 8.

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